Sunday, January 1, 2012

Creating the next generation of Book Trippers.  Start them young  - on books!

Of my numerous passions, one is children another is books. 
Do you remember the first time you read something?

I was 6 and in the first grade.  I remember standing at the wooden bookcase that ran the length of my classroom.  The smooth varnish on the top of the case had cured to a warm honey color whose glow was intensified by the afternoon sunlight pouring through the classroom windows.  As I stood at that bookcase I opened the cover of my first grade reader, Dick and Jane.  I learned to read and was transported to a new and exciting universe.

I learned quickly that all those shapes and symbols had meaning.  I learned that their very arrangement on the page represented something and most importantly – I learned that my world had been forever changed.  The feeling was remarkable.  OMG!!   This thing, this new ability to read felt like magic.  It felt like nimble and fantastic dancing.  In that magic and innocent moment I became a book tripper.

It was so exciting how these simple stories with their simple words and humble middle- American characters were my gateway to the infinite universe of the written word.  So exciting in fact, that I knew one day I would share this enthusiasm for books.

I work with parents and their very young children.  This parenting collaboration often begins before the child is born.  It’s a remarkable privilege, being allowed into an eventual intimate family partnership, watching the child and the parents grow together.  They learn so much from each other.

Children learn about the world.  Parents learn what it means to be a parent.  It is a life-long reciprocal gift.
A lot of what happens with parenting is intuitive when we are in allowance of our intuition.    A lot of parenting is trial and error.  A lot of parenting comes from sharing between family members.  A lot of parenting comes from our willingness to enlist the help of other parents.  A lot of parenting is purely chance.  Seems like incredible odds when you consider that you are responsible for influencing a person.

A person who one day will achieve great things, be it diplomatic relations or fast food burger flipping.  Each is equally deserving of a solid foundation in language.  Many parents have asked me when is the right time or the best time to start reading to their child.  My simple answer is NOW! 

Yep, you read that correctly.  The time is now – in utero or in grade school, preschool or high school.  You can and should read with your child whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Consider it one of your many privileges as a parent.   

Most people get the 'read to you child when he’s two or three' concept, but in utero??  That idea has raised some eyebrows.   Not surprising since we often fail to consider that babies can hear what’s happening in the outside world before they arrive in it.  At birth a baby will turn to the sound of his or her mother’s voice.  Stands to reason, considering they hung out together 24/7 for about 40 weeks.

Another key piece about reading to babies – they learn the rhythm, sound and mechanics of language, their language.  That is a powerful bit of knowledge for someone so young.   Scientific studies show that at 6 months of age, a baby can watch people speaking without hearing them and identify their native language.  I’m not sure how they determined this fact, but the research is there.

Astonishing!  Amazing!  (Opportunity, hear it knocking?)

So given this - I recognize my own language - fact, babies are much smarter than some may think and need healthy neural stimulation on so very many levels.  They need things to look at to stimulate the eye to brain connection.  They need textures to stimulate their sense of touch and smell.  They need the opportunity to be on the floor so they can explore what the muscles of their body can do.  They need to be talked to and read to.  They need to hear spoken language.  They need to hear that language spoken to them by a person.  Television and the radio just won’t get it done.
Language is key to lifelong learning.  Oh, another interesting note, babies are natural learners. 

Yes, yes, yes.  Babies learn naturally.  How else can you explain all that they do in a short span of time from learning to eat, to learning to communicate, to learning about how to move.  And that’s just the beginning.  Babies, all children for that matter, are in a constant state of learning.  As they grow the learning continues.  The learning intensifies.  The learning never stops, hence the read to them NOW approach.

When you read with your baby, your child, you give them a foundation for language.  You become their most important coach, instructor, professor, sensei and teacher.  You become their partner in learning.  You also build relationship.  A relationship that will pay off as you and your child continue to grow, continue to learn.
A closing note about reading.  

After reflecting on your first memory of reading to yourself, take a moment now to reflect on your first memory of being read to.   

What do you remember?  

Is it the kind of experience you would like for your child?  Whether it is or it isn’t the choice to create a rich learning experience through reading is yours.

It is my greatest desire that you will choose to read with your child now and forever.

Coming soon - tips on reading to and with children.  Thanks for tripping along.

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